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Louisville Is In the Middle A Potentially Historically Bad ACC Basketball Season

The Cardinals are having a dismal basketball season.

Syracuse v Louisville
LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 03: Head coach Kenny Payne of the Louisville Cardinals is seen during the game against the Syracuse Orange at KFC YUM! Center on January 3, 2023 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Clairvoyants and Las Vegas handicappers are adept at predicting what the future holds. Not us. But while we can’t pinpoint Louisville’s ultimate disposition as it stumbles through the darkest recesses of the ACC wilderness, contending for competitive ignonimy with benighted programs of the past, we’re assured the Cardinals are destined for rare historical territory in 2023.

Coach Kenny Payne’s club won only two of its first 21 games, giving unfortunate new meaning to the “L” in their UL acronym. Neither of its triumphs came within the league, away from home or, for that matter, within the 2023 calendar year. Their run of nine straight losses against all opponents set an ACC record for futility to start a season.

The Cardinals have fewer than a dozen games left on their schedule, including one in the ACC Tournament. All of those contests are against ACC opponents.

Through Jan. 25 Louisville was last in the league in scoring offense, scoring defense, scoring margin, field goal percentage, field goal percentage defense, assists, turnover margin, assist/turnover ratio, and defensive rebounds.

One can only imagine how, beneath the surface, Payne, his staff and players are feeling about the hole they’ve dug, and that others have helped them dig. An indication, or rather an admission, came after a 21-point thrashing at home by Pitt. “There is a battle going on and they are the aggressor,” the rookie coach said. “They are the predators, and we are the prey.”

How much darker could your prospects be when your coach flatly offers such a discouraged analysis? And what does it say about your program’s outlook under that coach? Transparent, anyway.

To put into perspective the historic depths that could await Louisville, there have been seven teams that went through an ACC season without a win, most recently Boston College in 2016 under Jim Christian and Pitt in 2018 in Kevin Stallings’ second and last year. Five more teams registered a single conference win; Wake Forest was the only one in this century in Jeff Bzdelik’s first season (2011).

ACC Teams With Fewest Overall Wins In A Season
Record Team Season In ACC
2-21 Clemson 1955 0-14
3-23 Virginia 1961 2-12
4-23 Georgia Tech 1981 0-14
4-20 Clemson 1968 3-11
4-20 South Carolina 1958 2-12
4-16 Boston College 2021 2-11
5-21 Wake Forest 1968 3-11
5-20 Virginia 1963 3-11
5-19 South Carolina 1958 3-11
5-18 Virginia 1962 2-12
5-18 Clemson 1954 0-9